With all of the stressors which exist in families today, some of the most interesting ones I hear from clients revolve around generational issues and the role of technology in maintaining healthy family interactions. All too often do we see a family who is used to irregularly gathering together, and frequently if they do so, virtually everyone is encapsulated by some type of gadget which dictates attention, including smartphones, ipads, etc. However, unlike many therapists who view this type of interaction as one which indicates a further slide away from traditional family values, I believe that technology can be a powerful tool to reconnect families and bring them together in a new and different way.
I first started to see this as a therapist when several of my clients commended me on incorporating technology into my practice. I try to operate as paperlessly as possible, and so my notes and scheduler are all digital. Even this post is in fact an ode to technology’s role in my practice, as I believe that whomever reads my posts can hopefully gain insight without necessarily having to come across the country or across the globe to schedule an appointment with me. So, due to my comfort with technology, I was somewhat aghast when I client raised up an issue that their child found my professional facebook page while they were searching with their friends. It raised up a complicated, but intriguing issue. What is the role of social media while connecting with your children? I queried with parents if they had ever asked their children what they were interested in on social media or involved themselves in the process, such as “friending” them on facebook. The parents stated that they hadn’t, afraid of being involved in technology and also perceiving that their children would find that to doing so would violate their privacy.
I think that technology can be a tool to reconnect in ways that were never available prior to the incorporation of computers into modern society. However, I also believe that it can carry some real and weighty risks. Especially for children, it is important for parental involvement in social media. This is not like reading your child’s diary. This is something which every post they make is being carried out at large to the world wide web, and can be discovered by literally millions of others if they have not set up appropriate security. Part of a parent’s job is to help children navigate this complex world, and to safeguard themselves. By friending them on facebook, you can get access to their information and their posts, both to supervise them and also connect with them in a way that they feel comfortable. The bond between a parent and child can oddly grow when the child posts a link to an interest that they parent “likes”, as it can transform that term into one that is merely technological and connect it back into the world of actual connection between people and families.